The chicken sat calmly in the basket of a baby stroller while 11-year-old Kira Owens pushed the stroller around the poultry barn. Meanwhile, a white Sultan named Elvis was content to stay in the arms of Kira’s 13-year-old sister, Kayia Owens.
Literally nothing ruffled their feathers.
“She won’t jump out,” Kira said. “I guess she feels comfortable because we’re just walking around.”
Kayia and Kira, who live near Bonifay, Florida, were among those who entered chickens in this year’s poultry competition. They have about 700 chickens at home. Kayia said any chicken can be a show chicken if you work with them enough.
“It’s really fun because you get to bond with your birds,” Kayia said.
Each year, youths from around the Wiregrass turn out to show their sheep, goats, hogs, cattle and poultry at the festival’s livestock shows and compete for ribbons and prize money. Even with the annual calf scramble, the students who participate are expected to raise their calves and return the following year to show them.
Siblings Asa Anderson, 15, and Eliannah Anderson, 16, of Chipley were showing hogs at this year’s National Peanut Festival competition. Their work starts months before the show.
“When you first get the pig, you start walking them every day and washing them at home,” Asa said.
They have learned what to look for in a good hog, a skill that takes practice.
“We go to a lot of shows, we watch and see what might be the new style of pig that people are looking for,” Eliannah said.
In the poultry barn, there are actually two shows — the Peanut Festival Poultry Show and the 4-H Chick Chain show. The festival show has youth and open divisions with ribbons for everything from showmanship to breed and pen decorations. The Chick Chain is a program through 4-H where students get 10 1-day-old chicks, raise them for 20 weeks and then return with their two best for a show and auction.
“The magic of the 20 weeks is that’s generally when a production bird starts laying eggs,” said Doug Summerford, the 4-H Foundation agent for Houston and Henry counties.
The Chick Chain show is tonight followed by an auction. The students get whatever money their chickens earn at the sale.
Summerford said the livestock competitions teach students everything from the responsibility of caring for an animal to presentation skills needed during a show and even the business side of having livestock.
“They have to record income and expenses,” Summerford said.
Effort pays off
Winning chickens can actually sell for up to $150, according to past youth winners Abigail Taylor and Elizabeth MacAloney.
Abigail, 16, has made a business from her chickens by selling the eggs they lay. The Headland teen has a variety of breeds, such as Easter Eggers, Dominickers and Plymouth Rocks. Choosing which chickens to show depends on the birds.
“I looked at which ones were the fullest of feathers right now, and then also I looked at just the overall poise of the chicken and how they stand and everything,” Abigail said.
Raising chickens is a commitment, and if you plan to show them, you have to work with them, they said.
“They have to trust you,” 13-year-old Elizabeth said. “If they don’t trust you, then you’re really not going to get your hands on them.”